Homepage > News

News

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

WPD program meets mental health challenges with compassionate care

In early 2019, the Westminster Police Department introduced an innovative resource to its policing efforts. Known as the Mental Health Co-Responder Program, this humanistic and compassionate approach to law enforcement pairs police officers with licensed, mental health professionals who are specially trained to assist residents in the midst of a mental or behavioral health crisis.

Mental illnesses are a lot more common than one might think; according to the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly one in five U.S. adults lives with a mental illness, which may vary in degree and frequency. In other words, based upon national statistics, approximately 22,000 of Westminster’s 114,000 residents are impacted by mental illness.

Considering the prevalence of mental illness in the community, it is inevitable for the Westminster Police Department to receive occasional non-emergency service calls involving an individual experiencing a mental health crisis. While officers on the Westminster police force are exceptionally well trained, they are not as well equipped as a mental health professional to deal with the highly specialized needs of someone in crisis.

The goal of the Mental Health Co-Responder Program is to prevent individuals in crisis from unnecessarily going to the hospital for a mental health evaluation or to jail and into the criminal justice system as a result of escalating behavior which may be compounded by their crisis.  The co-responder program helps the police and fire departments focus resources on other high-priority demands by reducing the number of repeat calls to the same individuals.  Additionally, the program aims to reduce the cost and impact on hospital emergency departments because individuals can be diverted to better resources within the community. 

In certain instances a co-responder may respond independently when there is not a safety risk present.  The traditional public safety model makes follow-up difficult due to the ongoing and regular demands on patrol officers.  Clinicians are able to provide continuing assistance to consumers and their families by offering aid and resources to help identify more long term solutions which further diverts people from the criminal justice system.

The Mental Health Co-Responder Program is made possible through a grant offered by the Colorado Department of Public Service (Office of Behavioral Health), and in partnership with the Community Reach Center. 
 

Number of views (8793)/Comments ()

Recent News

All Articles

Newsletter Sign-up